Churches Stand on ‘Burning Platform’ if Christians Don’t Disciple Children, Says Awana CEO By Tré Goins-Phillips for Faith Wire
Churches that don’t invest in children are “standing on a burning platform.”
Those are the words of Matt Markins, the chief executive of Awana, a child-centered discipleship parachurch organization headquartered in Streamwood, Illinois.
Pointing to data from the faith-based research firm Barna Group showing a child’s worldview is essentially established by 13 years old, Markins said it’s critical to begin building a foundation of faith at a very young age, rather than starting in youth groups with middle and high schoolers.
“The church looks to the canary in the coal mine as the high school dropout rate [when] students walk away from the church after high school,” he told The Christian Post. “But the purpose of the canary in the coal mine isn’t the moment the canary falls over, it’s what deadly gas led to that and where did it come from?”
He further explained, “If we’re looking at age 18 as the deadline, we’re actually looking at the wrong deadline. It’s not 18, it’s 13, because the Barna Group said worldview formation is set by then. Churches really need to be investing in children, because it’s what we’re doing with the 8-year-olds that is forming what’s going to become the 13-year-olds.”
Markins referenced another statistic, reportedly from Barna, showing 39% of children said they had at least one adult at their respective churches — apart from their parents — who “knows them, loves them and cares for them.” Those children, he explained, were much more likely to engage Scripture, serve in the church, and continue to develop their relationships with God.
“If you cultivate a culture at your church where kids are known, loved, and cared for by other loving, caring adults who are engaging with them, you’re going to … develop children who become teenagers, students, and young adults who have lasting faith,” he said.